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I have a colleague who is fond of saying “There’s no ROI in video production.” And while there’s some truth to that saying, I would argue that with the right strategy, there’s plenty of money to be made in online video, whether you’re a producer or publisher. The bottom line is that video is arguably the most important content on the Internet today, and if you’re trying to attract users and big advertising dollars, you can’t afford not to have a solid video strategy in place.

These days, however, it’s not enough just to create awesome, engaging videos. You have to be skilled in the art of marketing and distribution to ensure that those videos are getting eyeballs. Relying on haphazard clicks or a half-baked viral strategy is unlikely to make that happen. It’s all about maximizing every opportunity for user engagement and using smart distribution channels to extend your reach across the web.

As someone who has spent more than a decade in this industry and worked with some of the biggest names in online media, I’ve seen plenty of people fall victim to the same mistakes when it comes to video distribution. Read on for an overview of the four biggest blunders and thoughts on how to avoid them.

Putting All Your Eggs in YouTube’s Basket

If you produce any kind of video content, putting your videos on YouTube is a no-brainer. Even more traditional publishers like Hearst have turned to the online video giant to extend their reach with viewers. As part of a recent partnership, the publisher launched two YouTube channels featuring original, scripted content from popular magazine titles like Car & Driver, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar. Hearst gets to dip its toes into a new area that’s outside their core expertise in print, and YouTube gets a much-needed injection of premium content to boost their credibility with advertisers.

While a smart move for any publisher looking to make moves into video, this kind of distribution should be a supplement to a comprehensive marketing strategy, not the sole means of distribution. YouTube’s UI is designed with its own goals in mind, not those of individual publishers, and that means things like its system for recommending videos to users won’t always be optimized for your content. What’s more, many users still think of YouTube as a place to find short, buzzy clips of keyboard-playing cats or toddlers under the influence of too much Novocaine, so if your specialty is long-form content, this might not be the best place to build a following.

Syndication Without Proper Branding

Syndication partnerships are a useful way to extend your presence across the web and reach viewers where they might already be consuming or searching for content like yours. If you do pursue this route, it’s absolutely essential that your video is properly branded in order to reap the benefits. Exposure for the sake of exposure is meaningless if the viewer can’t easily identify the video as yours. I’ve seen far too many examples of publishers being given credit for third-party videos that had weak or non-existent branding.

Stopping After the First Click

Video viewers are incredibly valuable for publishers, which is why it’s essential to keep them on the site and clicking around once they’re already in watching mode. An easy way to do this is through links to recommended videos, and there are plenty of opportunities: through clickable in-player thumbnails after a video has completed, along the right-hand navigation and at the foot of the player. Companies like Outbrain and Taboola offer white-label platforms that can be integrated into your site to generate personalized recommendations for each user.

Lack of Curation

The word “curate” is nearly as overused as the word “social” was two years ago, but when done right, it’s an important part of any video strategy, particularly on sites with a large content library. Why is good curation so important? Watching online video has traditionally been an intent-driven, search experience: users look for a video on a specific topic and stop watching once they’ve found what they want. Publishers need to think about how they can incorporate a stronger element of discovery into the experience through a smart programming strategy that encourages users to explore and watch multiple videos on relevant topics, much like the experience of watching related TV shows on the same channel.

There’s no doubt that finding your way in online video is a difficult and often expensive proposition. But for those that succeed, the potential pay-offs are huge. The key to any successful strategy is to start experimenting early to find the mix of marketing and distribution tools that’s right for you. There are plenty of ways to get in the video game; the only sure way to lose is to stand idly by.

As Head of Business Development and Partnerships, Frank Besteiro leads all Business Development efforts for Video across The AOL On Network. Frank brings over 8 years of online video experience from Sr. Sales & Business Development positions at Maven Networks (Acquired by Yahoo!), The FeedRoom and Kaltura where he helped partners develop online video strategies in both the Media and Enterprise verticals.

Video camera photo via Shutterstock

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